Today's Paper

Kharge appointed KPCC President

A. Jayaram

BANGALORE: The Congress on Wednesday announced the appointment of M. Mallikarjun Kharge as the new President of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). He replaces B. Janardhana Poojary.

The appointment of the senior Minister and veteran politician will not be without its implications for the star-crossed coalition Government in the State.

Mr. Kharge, who is the Minister for Water Resources and Transport, will be taking charge at the Congress Bhavan at a time when the relations between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) are at a new low, especially in the light of the efforts of some Congress leaders to break the JD(S) Legislature Party.

Mr. Kharge will be taking over from Mr. Poojary, MP, who assumed charge on February 15, 2003. Like Mr. Poojary, Mr. Kharge too is expected to be a strong party chief with a large following of his own.

What is most significant is that the Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, and the KPCC President will be from the same district — Gulbarga. The All-India Congress Committee (AICC) has thus given the go by to the convention that the Chief Minister and the party chief should be from different regions of the State. Mr. Singh and Mr. Kharge have for long been comrades in the party who have avoided factionalism and stood loyally by the high command.

It is being stated that the AICC is also sending out a message to the JD(S) that it cannot have a say in the internal affairs of the Congress.

Mr. Kharge is an astute politician who has till now stayed clear of the Congress-JD (S) quarrels. He has the stature both in the Congress and State politics to stand up to pressures from outside.

The Chief Minister will have to contend with another strong President in the Congress Bhavan. Generally Chief Ministers have preferred weak and pliable party Presidents. The Dharam Singh-Kharge camaraderie will again be on trial. Mr. Kharge, who was a contender for the chief ministership, acquiesced to the leadership of Mr. Singh and maintained a low profile in the Government till now. Though Mr. Kharge himself has not identified himself with any faction in the party, the former Minister D.K. Shivakumar, the most prominent member of the S.M. Krishna group in the party, canvassed for his appointment.

Mr. Kharge's appointment is also being viewed as a snub by the AICC to the dominant Lingayat and Vokkaliga groups in the party, which had campaigned for the appointment of leaders such as Mr. Rajashekaran, Shamanur Shivashankarappa, D.B. Chandre Gowda and H.C. Srikantaiah as PCC President.

The Akhila Karnataka Veerashaiva Mahasabha had even told the AICC not to consider the Law Minister, H.K. Patil, for the presidentship as he is a non-Lingayat, in the belief that a Lingayat would be appointed.

Mr. Kharge's appointment as party chief is being viewed as an attempt on the part of the AICC to consolidate its hold over the Scheduled Castes and the backward classes, as Mr. Kharge belongs to a Scheduled Caste.

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